Amera Otaifa’s unique background and passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion have shaped her approach towards creating an inclusive workplace. Recently joining the team at Swiss Re as its head of HR UK & Ireland, she chats to myGwork, sharing insights into her career journey and the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion within the HR department.
Amera’s career started with an apprenticeship in business administration, which allowed her to explore different industries and gain valuable insights into what elements felt right for her career. Then, while working for a charity, her colleagues encouraged her to apply for an HR assistant role, and she’s been in the sector ever since.
Embarking on a journey of continuous learning, Amera studied part-time to obtain her Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualifications and later completed a master’s degree in HR, all while also working full-time. This dedication and hard work paid off as she climbed the corporate ladder and achieved the roles and promotions that she set her sights on. A career in HR includes a variety of work, all with a strong human element – which is a part of the reason it is an industry that has resonated so strongly with Amera. Now, after more than two decades in HR within investment banking, she’s moved to re-insurance, inspired by Swiss Re’s vision to make the world more resilient.
“Being able to give back to the community has always been close to my heart”
Joining Swiss Re just six months ago, she found herself in a work environment unlike any other she had experienced before. The culture at Swiss Re is inclusive, collaborative, professional, and friendly. She immediately noticed that the organisation embraces new ideas and prioritises making the company an even greater workplace. She has had the privilege of working with a fantastic HR team that excels in their roles while also promoting a sense of enjoyment and camaraderie. She is also co-sponsor of the SR UK charity committee, a position she feels honoured to have. “Being able to give back to the community has always been close to my heart and something that I have always done, so it feels like a privilege to be the co-sponsor with our UK & Ireland CEO,” she adds.
Amera’s affinity for diversity and inclusion extends beyond her professional career. She has long advocated for diversity, equity and inclusion, and her journey with the LGBTQ+ community has been profoundly impactful. Having witnessed discrimination faced by an LGBTQ+ mentor early in her career, she became committed to making sure she did not see that behaviour again, working hard to build a culture of inclusion and acceptance. She also dedicated her master’s dissertation to understanding the business case for diversity, going beyond the financial benefits, and emphasising the importance of treating people with dignity and respect.
As a staunch ally, Amera believes true allyship involves standing up for those who cannot safely do so for themselves. It encompasses actively raising awareness, educating others, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups. She envisions an inclusive workplace where everyone can show up as their whole selves, and believes allyship is crucial in achieving that vision.
“As an ally, you have a pivotal role in actively increasing the awareness and equity among all colleagues”
“As an ally, you have a pivotal role in actively increasing the awareness and equity among all colleagues in a work environment, but also in the community you live in – in short ‘standing up,’” Amera explains. “For me, it’s about doing the right thing, advocating for people, and making a difference.”
In the context of HR, LGBTQ+ inclusion holds immense importance. HR professionals are responsible for gauging the progress of their company’s inclusivity efforts, measuring inclusivity through feedback, and actively training employees. When it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ employees, Amera has valuable advice for HR professionals, emphasising the importance of continuous education within the field, as it is a rapidly evolving space. Collaborating with the LGBTQ+ community to understand their needs and finding collective solutions to address their challenges is also crucial.
“Demonstrating visible and vocal allyship is key to promoting an inclusive workplace”
“Listen to and take the time to learn from and understand your LGBTQ+ workforce. Acknowledge their lived experience to help promote inclusion and acceptance. Demonstrating visible and vocal allyship is key to promoting an inclusive workplace. It’s important to recognise the value that can be brought from gestures of support and how far-reaching these can go in helping individuals to feel included.”
Swiss Re is dedicated to investing time and resources into initiatives that pave the way for employees to show up as their true selves. All employees are invited to join employee resource groups (ERGs) during onboarding, fostering a sense of belonging. Additionally, the company conducts a yearly global survey that allows employees to self-identify voluntarily, identifying disparities and gaining insights to improve the employee experience. Swiss Re’s policies, learning platforms, and inclusive facilities further reinforce the message that the organisation is open supportive, and encourages individuals to embrace their whole selves.
Looking to the future, Amera is committed to working alongside her Swiss Re colleagues to make the world more resilient and further the focus on inclusion. “I want to play my part in putting in place the foundations to build a truly inclusive organisation where everybody thrives.”
Through Amera’s inspiring leadership, Swiss Re continues to pave the way for creating an inclusive workplace where individuals can bring their authentic selves and diversity is celebrated. Her career journey is a testament to the power of passion, hard work, and a commitment to championing equality and inclusion.